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  Reviews by: wadefr  

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Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

85II
Review Date: Nov 23, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: F1.2 performance, sharpness, bokeh
Cons:
slow autofocus, electronic manual focus, focus ring lacks damping

I bought this lens to be my definitive portrait lens for use at all types of photo shoots. I use it with both a Canon 7D and 5D III, and for most jobs use it in combination with a 35mm f/1.4.

This is a love hate lens for me. Optically it produces really beautiful results. It can be tack sharp even at f/1.2, has a beautiful quality to it's bokeh and rendering of colour and texture, and has a great focal length for portraiture.

On the downside it is very difficult to handle, and difficult to focus. It's short length and considerable weight make it and the camera feel unbalanced. The rear element is completely flush to the mounting ring, meaning changing lenses is a stressful exercise when on location. The slightest mistake would mean scratching or chipping the edges of the rear element. Autofocus is slow and somewhat unreliable, and the manual focus ring lacks damping, and has a lag between when you move it and the internal optics move into position (as the focus is electronic and not mechanical).

The lens is difficult to focus. So much so that I returned it to Canon for calibration thinking it might have a fault (it was returned with a note saying there was nothing wrong). On my 7D autofocus is a very hit and miss affair, and I often resort to live view focus where it is more accurate. On the 5D III autofocus is more reliable, but still with the speed of the focus being very slow and such a small depth of field, it can be very difficult to use (especially for portraiture of children or other things that move).

I'm not quite sure why Canon had to compromise so much in the design of this lens to achieve the result it has. Many other lenses come close in length and aperture without things like electronic focus and flush rear elements. Still, the lens is unique in the beauty of the results it produces, and I have not come across anything with which I would want to replace it.

Most images on my individual portrait gallery page were shot with this lens (and many from the other galleries on my website also):

http://www.ashleyphotography.com.au/individuals.html







 
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM "A"

sigma35
Review Date: Nov 23, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Build quality, optics, speed
Cons:
None so far

The thing that struck me first about this lens on unboxing was the build quality. The lens feels stronger than any other lens I own (although the Canon 70-200 f/4 IS is very close). It also uses materials in unique ways, like the rubber bevel in front of the focus ring that has a really pleasant feel to it. Even the lens hood is beautifully finished, as though Sigma were unwilling to compromise on any aspect of the design. Perhaps this is why they call it the "art series"?

Performance wise I have been unable to fault this lens. I've used it on both a Canon 7D and 5D III and find it as fast, accurate and sharp as the best lenses I own. I bought it primary for use as a portrait lens for use on client photo shoots in the home where I need a low light lens as well as a short focal length for tight places. I've been completely happy with the results, and now use it interchangeably with my Canon 85mm f.1/2L for indoor portraiture on location (I use the 85mm for head and shoulders as it has better proportions).

Many of the photos on my gallery pages are shot with this lens:
http://www.ashleyphotography.com.au/pets.html
http://www.ashleyphotography.com.au/children.html

I have also started using the lens for on location high key whitescreen work as at f/5.6 there are no chromatic aberrations.

I look forward to Sigma releasing more lenses in the art range. As far as I can tell they are as good, and quite possibly superior to Canon's L lenses, and at this price paying more for Canon is hard to justify.


 
Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical [IF]

1750diII
Review Date: Oct 6, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Incredible sharpness and detail. f/2.8 aperture. Great Contrast. Solid build. Excellent Warranty (7 years). Light and compact
Cons:
AF hunts in low contrast - lacks accuracy. Short focus ring movement.

I bought this lens to replace my Canon 17-85 IS, which I found lacked sharpness. I was not disappointed. This Tamron lens can take immensely sharp and detailed images, and to date I have not found a sharper more detailed lens.

I also own the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II and 70-200 f4 IS. Some claim the 70-200 is the sharpest zoom lens ever produced. While this lens produces more "keepers" than my Tamron, has faster more accurate focus, and better ergonomics, the Tamron can produce sharper, more detailed photos.

This has been especially true since I upgraded to the Canon 7D (18mp) from the 30D (8mp). In it's sweet spot, the Tamron can keep up with the 18mp resolution - the Canon lens cannot. I'd say the charts at SLRgear.com pretty much exactly match my experience in this regard - and they back up what I say here.

The trick with the Tamron is to focus manually in low contrast scenes. However with a bright contrasty target, the Tarmon AF is deadly accurate.

The Tamron is always on my camera. I only change to other lenses in special situations. It is light, compact and well built. I don't treat my lenses particularly well, and the IQ on the Tamron has not suffered from its many bumps and bruises.

My father has also bought one in pentax mount to replace a whole bag full of lenses and has been similarly impressed.

For amateurs looking to catapult their photography to the next level, or for pros who don't rely on an "L" badge to find customers - I'd highly recommend this lens.